Wacky Wednesday – Goals, Gifts and Memories

Goals

Yesterday I posted about a new goal that I am starting.  I even bragged that I had started a new habit.  Do you know how I know I have a new habit?  Do you even want to know?  Sure you do.

I use an online program called HabitForge.  It is a free program that allows you to set up your desired habit.  The program will then send you an e-mail each day asking if you followed-thru the day before.  It then has a little diagram showing how well you are doing.   I am one that loves to mark things off (to-do lists are my specialty, though I do have issues actually working them).  Being reminded each day keep me on track.  At the end of 21 days you have the option of continuing getting reminders for the next 3 weeks or ending it.

Gifts

No, this part is not about Christmas, or even about gifts for just me.  This is about the gift we can give our children – the gift of our time.   Kat over at Inspired to Action wrote about how to be a rock star to your children with 30 minutes and pink tablecloth.

Then she asked for readers to tell her things we do to become rock stars to our own children.  I submitted a few ideas.  Not only did she use them in her next article, Be A Rockstar…Today, but she even mentioned my name!  I feel like a celebrity!  She has 128 different ways to be a rockstar with your kids.  Check it out!  It really does not take much – but it means so very much to your child, and to your own heart.

Memories

The rest of this post is devoted to my youngest daughter and her First Mom.  Today our family celebrates that God blessed the world with the gift of our youngest daughter.  It is a bittersweet day for me and probably for her as she grows up.   I pray for everyone who ever was and is currently in her life. (Written last year on her birthday)

Misty weather in the low to mid 50s.

No indoor heat.

Labor pains.

The final push.

A girl – a healthy, perfect baby girl – lots of dark hair, little button nose, chubby cheeks, long fingers and toes.

A decision to be made within the next 48 hours. Not enough time to know who this little person was who had been growning inside her for 9 months.

Did she want to know this little person or was it easier to not know?

Does she cry for her little girl as her little girl cries for her years later?

Does she wonder about the woman who is raising her child as I wonder about her?

Does she wonder how her daughter tilts her head when thinking, or how she skips when she on her way to do something, or her ability to figure out math problems and sound out words?

Does she wonder what her giggle sounds like when her neck is nuzzled?

Does she share a love for all things pink and lavender with her daughter?

Today, as we celebrate with milk shakes after church, our table will filled not only with those of us laughing, but also by the shadow people – the people who gave her the precious gift of life, the people who live in the background only because we don’t know who they are and how to draw them out of the shadows and into the light of the love of our family, but more importantly, into the light of her eyes. They will probably forever live in the shadows because of circumstances beyond their control and our control – the victims of the politcal machine that controls the fate of so many in EBs birth country.

So today I send out prayers for the family who has no idea who this child has become, for the family that had to make a decision that I cannot even hope to comprehend from my warm and comfortable house in a country that does not have the same social, political, and filial pressures as theirs. I pray for peace in their hearts and in the heart of our little girl, for while she lives in my house, calls me Mama, loves me as unconditionally as I love her, she is not just mine, but theirs as well. I will say prayers of thanksgiving that they chose to bring this little girl into the world when her life could easily have been snuffed out.

Our little girl has so much to offer this world of ours. She is incredibly smart. She has a wickedly funny sense of humor. She is sassy. She is loving and giving. She is physically beautiful – saucy eyes, soft hair, long, strong limbs. She has a gentle heart, though it is often hidden by her childish desire to ALWAYS get her way. She loves to avoid manual labor, but will work for hours on an art project. She knows how to push her sister’s buttons and drive her crazy, but will staunchly defend her if someone is picking on her. There is so much of all 4 of her parents in her it is impossible to separate the characteristics that each of us have given her. Together we are creating and molding such a sensitive, wonderful young girl.

So when the flicker of the candles’ light illuminate EB’s face as she makes her wish over her cake, I know I will catch a fleeting glimpse of those people standing in the shadows. Maybe one day the light will reach far enough that they can step out of the shadows and we can fully share and enjoy this miracle that is our daughter.

 

 

Motivation Monday – Disagreement

Today’s quotes obtained from Book of Famous Quotes.

If you have learned how to disagree without being disagreeable, then you have discovered the secrete of getting along — whether it be business, family relations, or life itself.
Bernard Meltzer

When you run into someone who is disagreeable to others, you may be sure he is uncomfortable with himself; the amount of pain we inflict upon others is directly proportional to the amount we feel within us.
Sidney J. Harris

Boxing gloves

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I understand that many times people do not have the same opinions that I do.   I recognize that opinions are difficult to express constructively, especially in writing.  Writing often lacks “tone”, which can make words appear to mean one thing when they are actually supposed to convey a totally different meaning.   I spend a lot of time reading and re-reading posts on several of the blogs I follow, just to make sure that I am not misunderstanding what people are saying.   I then hesitate, many times,  to make comments, for fear that what I am trying to convey will be lost or misinterpreted.

This month  is “National Adoption Awareness Month”.   As I understand it, the month was originally set aside to make the public aware of the many children whose first parents’ rights have been terminated and are in need of a stable,  permanent family life.  It has now taken on a life of its own and is used to advocate and glorify all adoption.   I am going to go out on a limb here and say that adoption can be a wonderful thing.   It can be a blessing for everyone involved.  That is not saying that adoption is not painful.  It is.  It is based on loss.  The loss of the very first relationship a human knows – the mother/child relationship.  Sometimes it is also created through the loss caused by infertility on the part of the adoptive parents.  For every family affected by adoption there is a different story.

Many of the blogs that I read are adoption related.  I read them for support – to hear that other people are going through some of the same things that I am going through.  I read them for education – how other families are coping with certain issues, how adult adoptees feel, how first mothers feel.  I read them just for the joy of reading about children.  But this month makes me tired.  This seems to be the month where everyone weighs in with their opinion of adoption.  But they don’t just weigh in, they attack.  They attack like bullies on the school playground.  Their very important messages get lost in the dust of name calling, accusations, and prejudices.  I have found even the most even toned blogs become rancid during this month.  It is not that I don’t think each person is entitled to their opinion.  It is how that opinion is presented.   These opinions do not foster dialogue, they do not provoke thought.  In fact, the people who write don’t even have the common decency to own their own opinions.  They state their opinions as fact.   And while the writers have knowledge about their personal stories, they don’t have any knowledge of my story, or of my daughters’ stories.  Yet they appear to  feel they have the right to speak for or make judgments on  everyone.  And for that reason, I pity them.  I used to try to understand.  But I can’t even do that anymore.  I pity them that they seem to carry so much pain that they can’t see anything else but their hurt.  I pity them that they present themselves as having been so stunted in their emotional growth that they can’t begin to constructively work towards change.  So many of them  scream and drown each other out, they don’t or can’t hear the whispers of those who want to create lasting change in the adoption system.

So here are my guidelines for blogging – they are the same rules my husband and I have used for 20 years to communicate.

  • Use “I” statements and be responsible for your own opinions and feelings.
  • Don’t drag up things from the past.  Talk about the present issue.
  • Don’t make generalizations – speak only about that which you have personal knowledge.
  • Don’t put words in someone’s mouth, and don’t assume what the other person is feeling/thinking.
  • Refrain from name calling of any type.
  • Stop talking long enough to listen.
  • Listen twice – once with your head and once with your heart.
  • Take a deep breath before starting to speak.  If unable to speak softly and gently take another breath.  Continue breathing until the words can whispered.  Volume does not improve the listener’s comprehension.
  • Remember that once the words are spoken/written, they are forever.
  • Choose battles wisely.
  • Remember that saying “I’m sorry” or “You are right” is a sign of strength, not of weakness.  Humbly accepting those words is as difficult as saying them.
  • Agreeing to disagree is not losing, it is acknowledging another person’s uniqueness and is an opportunity for honest dialogue without the competition of “winning”.

 

In this world of  “rights” and “freedom of speech”  it seems our society has forgotten how to be nice and play fair.   We have become a group of people who believe our individual rights take precedence over that of anyone else.  We no longer look for the common good.  What I see are people saying or doing “something for the good of others” as an excuse to say or do hurtful things.   What would happen if  everyone took a minute and thought about  what they would feel if what they wrote was directed back at themselves?  Somehow I think the blogosphere might be a little kinder, with a lot less garbage floating around in it.

 

 

A Single, Solitary Moment

Silence.

Those words, uttered by our coordinator, silenced all the nervous laughter. 

They dried up all tears. 

They sucked all air from the room. 

All attention focused on her.  I instinctively reached for my husband’s hand as the coordinator told us the procedures we needed to follow.

We would be called by last names.  When our name was called we were to proceed to the conference room next door where we would meet the child we had been waiting to meet for so many months.  Once our child was in our arms we were to proceed to the director of the orphanage and give her the gifts that we had brought for her and the caregivers.  Names would be called alphabetically. 

I scanned the room and repeated the names of each family.  My grip on my husband’s hand tightened.  We were going to be the first family called!  I started trembling at my very center – a trembling that I had never before experienced.  The coordinator said she was going to check to make sure that the staff of the orphanage was ready for us.  She stepped out of the room.  I felt like she took all the oxygen out of the room with her.   I had no idea what I needed to do.  My mind was an absolute blank.  I stood there as the room erupted around me.  My husband handed the camera to my mom.  My father was making sure that the video camera was ready.  I was frozen to the floor, unable to breathe, feeling like I was looking at things from a million miles away.  Moments later the door opened and the coordinator stepped back into the room.

She called our name.  I hesitated for roughly .001 second and moved towards the door amid cries of well-wishes from our fellow travelers.  The coordinator was standing outside the door gesturing to the room on the left.  Suddenly I could not move fast enough.  I was moving as fast as I could without running.   I remember hearing my mother laughing at how fast I was moving.  No one was keeping up with me, yet I was incapable of slowing down or waiting on anyone. 

I walked into the room where national flags from all over the world hung from the ceiling.  There  were ladies holding babies sitting on sectional couches against the far wall.   The air was still and warm without the fresh breeze that was drifting into the conference room we had just left.   All of this I recognized within the recesses of my mind, but what I saw,  the focus of all my attention, was a woman standing in the middle of the room holding a bright-eyed, obviously curious little child.  I stopped abruptly and just stared.  This whole trip I had remained relatively in control.  I had shed no tears while I was getting up so very early to catch the plane, during all the flights, at breakfast, not even with the money exchange issue.  But now my eyes welled up.  The ayi holding this precious child was pointing to me and saying “Mama, Mama”, encouraging the child to look at me.  This sweet child looked back and forth between her ayi and me.  I felt the small hand of the coordinator urge me forward.  I approached these two people who had become the center of my world.   This little girl looked at me for a moment.  I gently opened my arms, not wanting to scare her or force her to move too quickly.  She looked down at my open hands then back up at my eyes.  Never taking her eyes from mine, she opened her arms and moved towards me.   I took her in my arms and stepped back next to my husband.  I could vaguely hear the camera snapping, but never once did we break eye contact for a few endless seconds.  DH gently murmured his greeting to his new daughter.  She broke eye contact to look up into his face, her face showing curiosity.  She calmly looked back and forth between the two of us as we gently touched her closely cropped hair, and looked at her tiny hands.  We were in a bubble.  The world moved around us, yet we were still and silent in our own little place.  I felt her soft hair.  I felt her light weight resting in my arms.  I felt her warmth seeping into my body.  I felt the soft, well-worn cotton of her little onesie.  I breathed in the scent of her sweaty little head.   We were finally all together.  All of our heartache over the last 10 years finally made sense.  All of the prayers that we had uttered we answered.  The answers were not always yes, but they were answered.  The broken pieces of my husband’s life, of my life and of this precious child’s life had been joined.   We were not made for each other.  Our pieces were not broken from the same vessels. But they fit, and they complemented each other, and we became a family.

On the go, only to wait…

The buses we rode during our stay in China were terrific – wide seats that reclined a little, private air vents, and plenty of room so that we were not all sitting on top of each other.  They also sat very high, so we had wonderful views of passing scenery.  After meeting in the lobby and taking final pictures of ourselves as a childless couple, the very kind men in top hats and scarlet tails helped us board the bus.  I obsessively checked and rechecked that we had all the red gift bags in hand and that the diaper bag was zipped and slung over my shoulder.  Even when I sat down on the bus, the diaper bag strap stayed firmly over my shoulder and I clutched it in my lap, like it was some sort of life-preserver.  And maybe at that moment, that was exactly what it was.  It was a something concrete that was in my control to protect.  Soon we pulled out of the driveway of the hotel and merged into the city traffic.  One road merged to another bigger street which eventually merged into a multi-lane, elevated highway.  When we exited the highway back onto surface streets the roads were much more congested.  The congestion was utter chaos.  Buses, mini-vans, subcompact cars, sub-subcompact cars, motorcycles, motor scooters, tricycles, pedal powered cargo wagons, and bicycles all danced around each other, horns honking, competing for every inch of road space and missing each other by mere fractions of an inch.  It was frightening, yet amazing to watch.  As we pulled up to the Civil Affairs building and started to turn right I looked down beside the bus as a bicycle rode along the right side of the bus and passed in front of the us, even as the bus was actively turning.  All of us on that side of the bus let out gasps, yet the man on the bicycle calmly kept pedaling and the bus driver kept turning and we all were safe.  At that moment I decided that driving in this country was something that I never wanted to attempt!

Our bus driver  pulled into the driveway of the Civil Affairs building, only to be told that the bus was too large to pull through the gates and turn around in the parking area.  We disembarked on the sidewalk and made our way to the front door of the building which was located on the corner of two busy streets.  It sat back from the street just a little with the sidewalk opening out in front of it.  We walked through the lobby to the elevator.  There was a single, shiny brass colored elevator on the left with stairs winding around the shaft tower just beyond.  We were headed to the second floor.  A few people headed up the stairs.  The rest of us crowded into the elevator.  As the door closed I remember thinking about the weight limit and giggling to myself that we would be stuck on the elevator as our daughters waited for us!

The elevator opened up into a small waiting room with two couches that sat at right angles to each other along the walls.  There was a reception desk in front of the elevator, to the left of the waiting room.  A window stood open above the couch facing the elevator. There was a faint breeze coming in the window.  We all gathered in this small area, most of us standing because there just were not enough seats.  The window over the couch looked down on the parking lot courtyard our bus could not enter.  Conversation stuttered among us as we all attempted to appear calm.  Yet any close observer could see the fiddling hands and hear the nervous laughter.  Every time the elevator dinged all heads would  snap around to see if the girls were arriving.   People wandered out of the waiting room to the left to look out the window that overlooked the street below.  Standing at that the window  they turned left to look down a hall that ended in a huge wall hanging proclaiming Guangdong Adoption Registration Center.  It seemed as if we waited and moved around this small area forever!  Finally our coordinator said that we were going to move to a larger room.

We took off down the hall towards the wall hanging and turned right to go through a door that opened into another hall that headed to the left.  There were closed doors all along both sides of the hall.  The floors were tile, the walls white with pictures of children who had been adopted, the doors were  dark wood.  Though warm, the hallway was airy and wide and bright.  We were escorted to the second door on the right.  The room smelled closed and hot, the air heavy with the humidity of the subtropics in October.  The far wall was covered in huge windows.  A vinyl covered sectional couch sat along the wall to the right and under the windows.  About a four-foot space was left  between the couches  by the windows.  In the center of the room was a massive conference table.  Someone found the latches to the windows and opened them, allowing the some air movement in the room, though the breeze was not very cool.  Each family staked a claim on various parts of the couches.  We chose a place 1/3 of the way down the couch along the right wall and unloaded all our belongings.  It was the first time since we left our room at the hotel that I let go of the diaper bag.   The families moved around the room.  Emotions ran even higher than they did in the small waiting room.  Ms. Flower and Ms. Britain became tearful as they realized their life-long dreams of having a child were about to be fulfilled.  Mrs. Diamond stroked the hair on a doll that she had brought to give her daughter.  Mr Adams set up his camera on a tripod so as to capture a picture of each child as they came through the door.   I was hot, very hot, but my hands were cold as the adrenaline of the moment coursed through me.  There we sat, seven families, waiting to hear four life changing words.   Finally our coordinator walked into the room, closed the door behind her, and uttered what we had been waiting 16 long months, traveled thousands of miles to hear,…

 

 

“The girls are here”

Breakfast

This is a continuation of the story of the journey to meet our oldest daughter.  I am breaking it down into smaller sections so that I can capture the details that I have never been able to capture with words.

 

Before scattering like dandelion seeds to our separate rooms, we all agreed to meet for breakfast the next day.  THE day.  One of the most important days of our lives.  The reason I had managed to get out of bed early and without complaint prior to our flight.  The reason we had packed so carefully and completely.  We were going to meet the child that God had protected since conception, that God had prepared us to parent.  But first, we needed food.

A couple of us showed up in the lobby.  It was even more beautiful in daylight – marble, wood, glass and brass – all of it sparkling in the morning light streaming through the front windows.  There was an exquisite flower arrangement on the circular table in the middle of the floor.  A wood and brass sculpture hung on the back wall – intricate and bold.  People were flowing around us as I gawked like the country girl that I am.  We headed into the restaurant we had been shown the night before – The Blue Moon Coffee Shop – clutching our tickets that would show that breakfast was part of our room price.  A hostess in a cheongsam took our tickets and showed us to a table where other members of our group waited.   As we sat there visiting and getting know each other, more of our group wandered into the restaurant.  It was amazing what a little rest, a shower, and for some of us, some make-up, can do!  Some of us wore our emotions on our sleeve and teared up easily (yes, Ms Britain, I am talking about you!).  Some of us were jittery and chattered (Ms Flowers, that would be you!)  Mr and Mrs Adams were sitting down the table.  He was friendly and talked about their sons waiting at home for their new sister.  She was quietly smiling at the stories.  Me, I was nervous around all these people I did not know, and was covering up by alternating between teasing people and keeping to myself.   My parents calmly watched the dynamics of the group unfold.

Eventually we decided we had better fill out plates at the buffet so that we would have the strength to do the myriad items on our to-do list before we could meet the girls.  The buffet was large and separated oddly – at least oddly in my mind.  There was “American” which consisted of bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy, etc.  There was a “Muslim” table with other types of food, many of which I was familiar with and would have been on any American table.  There was the Chinese table with things like congee, fried rice, stir fried veggies.  Then there were just some things that I never quite thought of as breakfast food – spaghetti and meat sauce,  bar-b-q meat, macaroni and cheese, fish.  There was one table that became my absolute favorite, though.  It was the cold table and was filled with fresh melon slices, orange wedges, bananas, grapes, and yogurt.

Our coordinator arrived as we were finishing up our meal to tell us the order of the day.

First we needed to exchange money so we could pay the fees that needed to be paid.   Word arrived that the hotel was out of money for exchange.  My heart rate increased a bit.  How were we going to get the yuan we needed?  Someone posed this question to our guide.  She looked at us oddly and told us to go to the bank that was down the block.  Mental note – nothing closes on Sunday in China.  Heart rate went back down.

Second we need to get all of the gifts we had brought for the caregivers and the orphanage director wrapped and ready – American made items packed in red sacks.  We also needed to pack the diaper bag – bottle, liner, formula, special toy from my aunt, diapers, diaper wipes.  Rumors that orphanages sometimes wanted their clothes back so they could be used for children still in their care ran through our minds – a change of clothes.

Third and most important of all, the time we needed to be down in the lobby to catch the bus to where we were going to meet the girls. Heart rate back up – there is a definite time!  It took me a minute to catch my breath.   That moment, that singular moment I had been living for during all those years, was given an actual time on the clock.  It was no longer a nebulous “when”, it was a specific hour and location.  This time my heart rate did not go back down.

We all looked at each other, looked at our coordinator and then back at each. Then as if a starting gun had gone off, we all scurried to do as we were told.  Hubby and I discussed it and he was going to go exchange the money and I was going to pack the gifts in their red bags and get the diaper bag organized.  Quick kiss and we parted.  Up the elevator I rode as ladybugs started fluttering around my stomach.  I pulled out our diaper bag, a precious gift from one of my mom’s close friends.  I dumped everything out and sorted it on the bed to ensure that I had everything I needed.  Container of individual servings of formula powder – check.  Bottle and several different kinds of nipples – check.  Bottle liners – check.  Change of clothes for the baby – check.  Diapers, how many should I pack?  I had failed to find out how long we were going to be gone.  How often does a one year old need to be changed?  The ladybugs were turning into small moths fluttering around the fire created by the surge of acid in my stomach as I started to forget everything I ever learned about babies in nursing school.  HOW OFTEN DOES A ONE YEAR OLD WET A  DIAPER!!!!!!!  OK, surly she would not need to be changed more than twice an hour.  How many hours were were going to be gone?  Maybe I should pack 15 or so just to be on the safe side.   Nothing was fitting.  My mom walked in about that time.   She took one look at me with things strewn all over the bed and calmly walked over to inspect the bag.  While she did that I started concentrating on putting together the gift bags.  Oh good, they had stayed nice and neat and uncreased in the bottom of the suitcase.  I laid out all the gifts that we had planned for this part and started putting them in the bags.  We had forgotten the tissue paper.  We did not have any pretty tissue paper to put in the top of the bags!  What were they going to think of me?  How were they going to allow me to take one of their precious children to care for when I could not even remember to bring tissue paper to make the gift bags pretty?  My hands started shaking.  OK, maybe I could fold the tops over.  I tried that, but they just popped open again.  They looked awful.  My deep breathing was turning into muttering which was beginning to crescendo into a full voice raving.  One of my parents walked over, took out the lapel pin of our home state that we had brought as part of the gifts, neatly folded down the bag and fastened it closed with the pin.  I turned around to find that mom had removed the vast majority of the diapers from the diaper bag, leaving me with plenty, and now everything fit nicely.  My breathing once again calmed down, my heart resumed something resembling its normal rhythm, and I sat down on the bed and waited for Hubby to arrive.  No one had witnessed this near panic attack except my parents who were used to my scatter brained approach at life.

Mom and dad sat around and told me stories and got me laughing like they usually do when I am so nervous.  They sat on one of the beds and I sat on the other.  Before long they had me giggling and relaxed.  Hubby walked in the room.  His eyes told me something was not right.  Instantaneously the fire in the pit of my stomach roared to life, and the moths increased in size and number.  The hotel remained out of money and the bank closed before he had reached the front of the line.   We did not have the yuan we needed for the day.  Any semblance of calm that I was portraying was gone in that instant.  My heart rate shot through the roof,  I bordered on hyperventilating,  and my chin started quivering.   I don’t cry in public.  I cry, but not where people can see me.  At that moment I teared up, ready to give in to the overwhelming emotions, the fear, the uncertainty.  I started trembling worse than when I was walking down the aisle to get married.   Moments after these incapacitating feelings started to drown me, in trooped Ms Flowers’ travel companion and Mr Adams.  I don’t know what drew them to our room, but they appeared.  Seconds later the rest of the travel group showed up.  There were 2 families that had not been able to exchange money.  Dollars and yuan started changing hands faster than I could comprehend.  In five minutes it was over and everyone cleared out of our room.  We had the exact amount of yuan that we needed, plus enough for a quick trip to the store if we needed something once we had the baby.   I did not recognize what had just happened.  I did not see God’s hand reaching down and scooping those people towards our room, or whispering in their hearts that someone needed their help.  All I knew at that moment was that what had started out as individual strangers from all across the country were  starting to support each other.  Now I see that God was laying down the threads of the friendship that would become part of the fabric of our lives for years to come.

Mom and dad went back to their room to get their camera and gather prepare to leave.   Hubby and I had a moment to ourselves.   We clung to each other in the last embrace as a childless couple.   Separating we nervously laughed as we picked up the diaper bag and the gift bags and rode the elevator down to the lobby to catch the bus that would deliver us to our future.

The start…

The 5 of this month marked my oldest’s 9th birthday. 8 years ago,  DH and I celebrated her 1st birthday, though separated from her by 1/2 the world.

Candles spell out the traditional English birt...

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It was a bittersweet celebration.  We celebrated that someone gave her life.  We celebrated our impending parenthood.  But we mourned as well.  We mourned that she did not have someone to hold her and cuddle her on her special day.  We mourned that our joy was at the cost of the most precious bond – that of first mother and child.   But we knew that we would celebrate each future birthday fully and thankfully.

Today, the 18th, marks not only my father’s birthday, but also the day that we boarded a plane 8 years ago.   This was the day that we headed to China for the first time.

We arrived at our local airport at some horrifically early, the sun was not even up, I did not know there was a world out there, my

body does not recognize anything resembling vertical movement, do my eyes even open, hour of the day.  We had to arrive so early because it was only a year post 9/11 and security delays could be huge.  You know what?

X-ray machines and metal detectors are used to...

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At that hour of the morning -

there are no lines at baggage check-in,

there are no lines in security,

THERE IS NO ONE

AT THE AIRPORT!!!!!!

And so started one of the most emotionally charged, amazing trips of my life.